From: "Stephen D'Arcy" <darcy@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 1996 14:36:13 -0500 (EST)
Nicholas Dronen wrote:
> I agree that it does not belittle the cause of the Zapatistas if
> Foucault was introduced by someone other than a homegrown intellectual.
> However, it does say something about the nature of the uprising if it
> was instigated by external leadership....
I don't know what you mean. What, for example, does it tell us about
German fascism in the 1930's and 1940's when we learn that Hitler was
"an outside agitator" from Austria? Surely this is not one of the
more important things to know for those want to understand the Nazi
movement and its history.
If, in Canada, many of the earliest trade union organizers were
Scottish, should a labour historian try to explain the rise
of unions in Canada by reference to this fact? Wouldn't that be
barking up the wrong tree entirely?
Do we understand the Cuban revolution better when we find out that Che
Guevara was from Argentina? or that he attended medical school there?
Many of the leaders of the American revolution were born in England.
But what is that supposed to tell us about the American revolution?
Since this is the Foucault list, I ask: what does it tell us about
French panopticism when we find out that Bentham was British? I would
say: almost nothing.
> When the Chiapas story first broke, I was rooting for the Zapatistas,
> but after I learned that Marcos was not native to Chiapas and after I
> thought a little about the famed socio-economic anaylsis of the French
> Revolution (which I thought was done by Samuel Huntington, but which
> Alisdair MacIntyre attributes to someone else) my thoughts on the
> conflict changed. (In case you aren't familiar with the study of the
> French Revolution, the upshot is that the revolution was caused not by
> severe economic hardship but rather by a rising middle class and the
> concomitant (sp?) rise of expectations among that class.)
Here I think I understand your point, but don't find it very
compelling. I gather that you think that the peasants in Mexico are
being "uppity," since they have been convinced by an "outside
agitator" that they deserve to live in better conditions than they
currently do (i.e., they have "rising expectations").
I take the opposite view: their expectations have not risen nearly far
enough. They ought to recognize, in Marx's phrase, "the prodigious
scope of their own aims" ("18th Brumaire"). Given that wealth is
produced in Mexico, the question is: what should be done with it? If
the Zappatistas want to say that it should be used to meet human
needs, then they ought to recognize that this entails the idea that
capitalism should be dissolved and replaced. As far as I know, they
have so far failed to recognize this.
> I am not so willing any longer to suppose that each and every
> left-leaning rebellion is justified and legitimate.
A more interesting question is: given that people will rebel even
without first getting your permission, how do you propose to respond?
For example, when there are shots being fired by both the Mexican
government and the Zappatistas, whose side are you on -- the uppity
peasants, or the presumably "justified and legitimate" government, or
neither? If neither, what does that mean in such a context?
> A good friend of mine from high school, now an activist in New York,
> organizes garment factories (or tries to) and speaks occasionally
> on diverse and radical topics at a Pathfinder Books in Washington
> (somewhere near 8th and E Streets SE). I could respect what he is doing
> were it not for the fact that I know him well enough to see that what he
> is really doing is trying to become The Great Leader of Men. Isn't it
> somewhere in Beyond Good and Evil that Nietzsche says not to be deceived
> by the humble appearance of the holyman, as he is secretly prideful in
> his heart?
(Speaking of ad hominem arguments.....)
What if your ershwhile good friend were not only an unsavoury
character etc., but also had some opinions which were correct, such as
that 2 plus 2 equals 4, and that bosses exploit workers, and that
garment workers will benefit from being organized? Isn't that
And what if the Zappatistas were right to think that they can only
gain from fighting? Of course, that would not convince any
philosopher that their fight was "justified and legitimate." On the
contrary, it would only show that whether a struggle is justified does
not matter; what matters is that some people have every reason to
engage in it. That, presumably, is why people who engage in struggles
don't first ask philosophers for permission.